Proposal to teach Byzantine Chant throughout the U.S.A.

apostolos

Απόστολος Κομπίτσης
#41
Kudos to Basil for his full disclosure. Having followed the thread, I wanted to put in my own $.02 worth.

I am the protopsaltis of a large parish in the Metropolis of New Jersey. I have made it known that I will NOT compromise my chanting as it was taught to me by both my teachers and my own father, who is a priest. For example, the simple matter of English: I REFUSE to chant in English. Period. I will not even chant "Amen", let alone "Lord have mercy" (which, theologically, is an incorrect translation anyway). If our Roman Catholic brethren sing "Kyrie eleison", why in the world would WE, the Orthodox, NOT chant it and substitute "Lord have mercy"?? This makes no sense to me. l could get into a huge philosophical discussion here about the mystagogy - "mystagogia" - of our faith, the EXPERIENTIAL (rather than pietistic and "protestant") nature of our faith, but it would take pages and pages.

Regarding western choir music, let it be known that I grew up with western choir music. Growing up in America, my father had a choir in every parish he’s been assigned to. Some choirs were quite good, others were very elementary. But all of them used the “standard” choral manuals of Anastassiou, Vryonidis and Roubanis. George Anastassiou and Nicholas Roubanis, in particular, include a couple of Russian Xerouvika which, to this day, make the hair on my arms stand on end because they are so beautiful. (My absolute favorites are the Dmitry Bortniansky Cherubic Hymn and the Nicholas Karlash Cherubic Hymn. The former was edited by Pyotr Tchaikovsky – sometimes it’s referred to as the “Bortniansky-Tchaikovsky Cherubic Hymn – and appears in N. Roubanis’ choir hymnal, while the latter was dedicated to George Anastassiou by Karlash and found in Anastassiou’s hymnal, p. 29.) I have even sung in some of these choirs (they ALWAYS needed tenors! LOL). As I got older and delved into the history of our hymnology and began learning more and more, I realized that all of this was very foreign to Orthodoxy. This was NOT the traditional music of the Church.

The big problem with the "western choirs" is that most have deviated from the music of those original three composers I mentioned. The modern compositions of Desby, Zes, Bogdanos, Lawrence, Gallos and others are so far removed from tradition, that they sound like protestant requiems rather than Orthodox hymnology. And they have the AUDACITY to say that they are "based on the traditional Byzantine melodies".

I maintain this: Anastassiou, Roubanis and Vryonidis (who were all CHANTERS in their own rite, and not Juilliard graduates) composed their music based on the music of Sakellaridis and kept it simple. Where they could "harmonize", they harmonized. First Tone, for example, for the most part was NOT harmonized. There was a melody and there was an ison. (Oh, perhaps at the end they threw in a switch to major where they could add a 1-3-5 chord and make a "grand finale", but that was about it.)

After these three composers, it was all downhill from there. The latter so-called "neo-byzantine" composers (Desby, Zes, et al.) added weird chord structures, rhythmical point/counterpoint movements and rondo forms that make their compositions anything BUT Orthodox. These have absolutely NO PLACE in Orthodox worship. Oh, they'd be fine for a concert, but NOT within the official services (Liturgy, etc.) of the Church.

I think that the matter requires EDUCATION and SUPPORT. By "education" I mean educating the faithful; writing articles in our church bulletins on Byzantine chant; conducting lectures or other presentations for our congregations; and teaching the young people about our hymnology. By "support", I mean that the clergy (priests AND hierarchy) need to stand behind this tradition and support it.

The National Forum has no business in Byzantine Music because, for the most part, it knows nothing ABOUT Byzantine Music. They claim they have "resources" for the chanters, but if you wrote to them and asked them to provide a copy of Petros' Eirmologion, they'll look at you like you have two heads. This is why anything related to Byzantine Music should be REMOVED from under the "supervision" of the National Forum. They can promote their western music all they want, but when it comes to Byzantine chant, they need to step back.

Apostolos
 

Nikolaos Giannoukakis

Παλαιό Μέλος
#42
Dear Basil,

I did not read anywhere in Richard's discussion that he is advocating for compromise on substance and style of Byzantine Chant from the position of a chanter. In other words, I did not interpret any of his discussion as advocating for a "dumbing down" of Byzantine Chant to make it more appealing to the Forum (or any Westernised musical entity).

His arguments were directed at finding a way to bridge a real or perceived gap between chanters and the Forum (and like entities) in facilitating a collaboration to promote BM in the US.

If I am wrong in my assessment, please advise.

I am still not convinced in the least that the Forum cares or even wants to promote BM in a manner that will make them "change the music they love".

I am more than convinced that the HCHC vehicle will bear fruits.

Last, as one who believes in ecclesiastic tradition, rules and operating principles (even though clergy may have deviated from them), I will stick to the example set forward by the martyrs and saints we commemorate in our Synaxaria.

If that creates problems for some and exposes the incompatibility between their actions and the principles that they claim to serve, so be it.

After all, Christ died on the cross for exactly the same reasons.

Demonstrating the hypocrisy of the establishment and the special interests and principally the lure of MAMMON was dangerous for Him as it is for us today.

NG.
 

basil

Παλαιό Μέλος
#43
I did not read anywhere in Richard's discussion that he is advocating for compromise on substance and style of Byzantine Chant from the position of a chanter. In other words, I did not interpret any of his discussion as advocating for a "dumbing down" of Byzantine Chant to make it more appealing to the Forum (or any Westernised musical entity).

His arguments were directed at finding a way to bridge a real or perceived gap between chanters and the Forum (and like entities) in facilitating a collaboration to promote BM in the US.

If I am wrong in my assessment, please advise.
You are wrong in your assessment.

At his former parish, Richard made a habit of chanting material that egregiously violates the formulaic rules of Byzantine music (the English adaptations of Basil Kazan), not just once or twice as a matter of oikonomia but on a permanent basis, during Vespers and Orthros as well as the Divine Liturgy. You can call it practical or political, but the bottom line is that this is still compromise on the substance of Byzantine chant from the position of a chanter. In his defense, he didn't enjoy doing this and he actively tried to change the situation for the better, but the fact remains that he caved in and dumbed down Byzantine chant to make it more appealing to a Westernized musical entity, not just once or twice but week after week.

Richard argues that this is not only acceptable but necessary; I argue that it is neither acceptable nor necessary, occasional cases of oikonomia notwithstanding. As I've brought up above, regularly doing violence to the rules of Byzantine music in one's own chanting does a disservice to the tradition and emboldens people to put pressure on other traditional chanters to do the same (also, it stunts one's own development as a chanter). Therefore, I reject this course of action. Given his defensive posture above, I'm sure Richard will respond to this and explain that he was stuck between a rock and a hard place. Fine. With all due respect, and in all politeness, I strongly disagree with this course of action. This is the core of our philosophical dispute, and I think there ought to be a calm but serious discussion about the pros and cons of this philosophy.
 

Nikolaos Giannoukakis

Παλαιό Μέλος
#44
«Ὅστις θέλει ὀπίσω μου ἐλθεῖν, ἀπαρνησάσθω ἑαυτόν καί ἀράτω τόν σταυρόν αὐτοῦ καί ἀκολουθήτω μοι» (Μάρκ. η΄ 34).

Αἴροντες τόν σταυρό, εὐαρεστοῦμε τόν Κύριο Ἰησοῦ Χριστό, Τόν ἀκολουθοῦμε. Ἄν ἀκολουθοῦμε τόν ἑαυτό μας, δέν μποροῦμε νά ἀκολουθοῦμε Ἐκεῖνον. Ὅποιος δέν ἀπαρνηθῇ τόν ἑαυτό του, δέν μπορεῖ νά Μέ ἀκολουθήσῃ (Ματθ. ι΄ 38).

The church is built on the Rock which is Christ. Christ set forth, through His Apostles, a line of how the Church is to function and to live. The Holy Fathers articulated the Apostolic teachings and traditions. The sum of these articulations are the Canons and the living traditions that were ratified through the Patriarchates, with Constantinople as the first among equals. Those living traditions guide the service and the servants of the church.

If one deviates from those, one becomes an outlier. Outliers are incompatible with the Church. Imposition of outlier elements on the Church by external forces provokes a response from the Church, as a body and as a governance. In the case of the GOA it is called the Ecumenical Patriarchate which is above and beyond any one clergy man, any one bishop, and any one local Synod, no matter how much "politics" and "grease" are piled inside a local entity to motivate an outlier element.

The Church has always stepped in to defend its traditions where those traditions are deviated or revised towards an outlier outcome. Laughing clergy notwithstanding.

NG.
 

basil

Παλαιό Μέλος
#45
The church is built on the Rock which is Christ. Christ set forth, through His Apostles, a line of how the Church is to function and to live. The Holy Fathers articulated the Apostolic teachings and traditions. The sum of these articulations are the Canons and the living traditions that were ratified through the Patriarchates, with Constantinople as the first among equals. Those living traditions guide the service and the servants of the church.

If one deviates from those, one becomes an outlier. Outliers are incompatible with the Church. Imposition of outlier elements on the Church by external forces provokes a response from the Church, as a body and as a governance. In the case of the GOA it is called the Ecumenical Patriarchate which is above and beyond any one clergy man, any one bishop, and any one local Synod, no matter how much "politics" and "grease" are piled inside a local entity to motivate an outlier element.
I couldn't agree more, and I strive to uphold those living traditions to the best of my ability and to guard against outliers. I always strive to be polite but firm. Sure, I may occasionally chant a piece that violates the formulaic rules or employs Western-style polyphony out of oikonomia, especially if a decision has to be made during a service where there is no time to discuss things plainly. But I always take the next available opportunity to explain the nature of the problem and politely and lovingly point out the correct course of action. Sometimes people have the humility and wisdom to see the errors in their singing, and other times they don't. If it becomes clear to me that the person is willfully ignorant, or if they exhibit a pattern of rejecting polite and loving criticism, then there's nothing more I can do. At that point, I continue to uphold the tradition, and that person's rejection of it is on them, not me.

Sometimes, this has resulted in me being asked not to chant at a service by priests who are either too ignorant of the tradition or too afraid to stand up for it. In those cases I respect the authority of the presiding priest or bishop but remain steadfast in not compromising my own personal integrity or the integrity of the musical tradition I have been entrusted to safeguard. In many cases this means having to sit on the sidelines and enduring woefully incompetent people butchering the services. If that isn't martyrdom, then I don't know what is. Richard writes, "I must have missed the part where compromising the quality of your chanting or composing had anything to do with what I was doing there." This is the part. When one chanter starts bending the rules, we all suffer because that chanter gives off the implicit impression that it's OK to bend the rules. But as I mentioned, if we all observed the rules of Byzantine music then this wouldn't be an issue.

I'm tempted to bring up examples like St Maximus the Confessor or the Kollyvades fathers defending tradition against all odds and social ostracization, but I'll cool off a bit because I don't want Richard to get upset at me again.
 

Nikolaos Giannoukakis

Παλαιό Μέλος
#46
It's interesting to note that St. Maximos was the protagonist at the 6th Ecumenical Council which among its many deliberations focusing on monothelitism, also considered and discussed musical matters, subsequently ratified in the Canons arising under the Quintisext Council (The so-called Council under the Trullo)....

The Synaxarion consists of homage to martyrs who accepted to belong in the "non-darling" and "unsexy" population of their time. It is full of people who went against what was popular and contemporary in their day. Call them zealots? Not really. Just people who kept the orthotomia.

As we read those Synaxaria, we should question ourselves exactly where we stand. Especially laughing clergy. Otherwise, we are living a lie and worse yet, trampling Christ and God.

Anyway, this thread has already digressed......possibly its time to close it. I believe we have discussed the topic extensively to know where everyone sits on the matter and where the problems exist.

NG
 
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#47
Basil: As I said in e-mail, God forgives; forgive me, brother. Let's put this behind us.

I appreciate you bringing up what you did about the situation at my former parish; it gives me a chance to do some, shall we say, exegesis of the glossing of the matter as "caving in" and "dumbing down". It may very well be that that's what I was doing, and if it remains a "caving in" and "dumbing down" even after I've elaborated the narrative a bit, so be it, but everybody at least needs to know what was being referred to.

For seven and a half years, with next to no resources in the way of people, priestly support, material support, acoustic support (the church is a sound-killing shoebox; low drop ceiling with acoustic tiles, carpet, plain drywall, not a reflective surface in the whole nave, and it's exactly what they wanted to build), or any other kind of resource, I worked to improve the situation at my former parish. The music they were singing when I took on musical responsibilities there in 2005 was a train wreck -- a hodgepodge of Karam and badly-adapted Russian melodies and other such junk, sung and directed very poorly by people who had no idea how bad it was or how much the acoustic hostility of the building was hurting them all the more. The woman who "chanted" Vespers and Orthros sort of, and I emphasize SORT OF, sang everything in something that at times sounded like Mode IV and Pl. IV. The first time I ever joined her at Vespers, she had the Kazan book open, and I dutifully sang what was on the page; she looked very uncomfortable and said, "You don't actually have to sing the notes." For Liturgy I eventually switched from the hodgepodge to the Village Camp book, which, like it or not, was an improvement, and the best improvement I could make with what I had to work with (and with what I myself knew at the time).

Eventually, at no small inconvenience to myself or my family, I was fortunate enough to be able to spend time in Greece (ultimately that was a better option than commuting to either Chicago or Nashville, which were the closest geographic options in terms of teachers at 5 hours away apiece); Ioannis Arvanitis was kind enough to impart to me whatever I could learn, however precious little that may have been, and I came back wanting to pass on such flame as I had been given. (EDIT: I hope it is clear that the deprecatory comment is aimed at myself rather than my teacher or what he taught, both of which were far, far better than a student like myself deserved.)

My actions from there, I think, speak for themselves -- I brought to Bloomington people like John Boyer and Alexander Khalil, not once but multiple times (JMB in particular has been out here a total of, I think, four times); I started gradually switching out sections of the Camp book for traditionally-composed pieces (in English; with all due respect to Apostolos, in a parish of mostly converts in the Antiochian archdiocese, Greek is a non-starter, and ironically enough, Arabic is not even on the table), and all festal material as well (except for Pascha, which was a peculiar situation at this parish, and I'll get to that). Being the only person who read psaltic notation, I had to pick repertoire that had staff notation transcriptions available as well, or I had to transcribe them myself. Eventually, I was even able to get the black metal music stands replaced with a real psaltiri and stasidia (along with a beautiful bishop's throne), high-quality hand-carved woodworking, thanks to the generous donation of a parish in New York (!). (Pictures of the space with the psaltiri and the throne can be seen at these links:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10100925341814449&l=158fd30b31
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10100925341839399&l=50d8ea72a8
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10100925341874329&l=0b2eb5caf2

I should note that Vicki Pappas was able to facilitate that donation.)

I also was able to push for the purchase of an HTM Menaion, which I then used to start teaching my choir the automela.

There remained, even within all of this, people problems, clerical problems, facility problems, and resource problems. There were a handful of former choir people who felt that I had alienated them and pushed them out by my repertoire choices (and also by my requirement that people come to rehearsal). Some of these people were parish council members and founders of the parish. They refused to cooperate with me on any level whatsoever, no matter what I said, no matter how I said it, they constantly complained to the priest, and on several occasions picked fights with me in public, often in the nave itself.

There was a shortage of competent, available people in the community. By nature of the kind of town Bloomington is, if you were a competent enough musician to understand what I was shooting for and want to support it, you probably didn't have the time to participate. If you had time to participate, you probably weren't somebody who was even going to have an easy time learning by ear. I spent a *lot* (and I mean a LOT) of my own money on CDs to give to choir members just so they could have SOME kind of aural reference. I tried to promote learning to read notation as something that didn't need to be threatening, that was actually far easier than they thought, and bought several copies of the Archdiocesan School's Theory and Practice Guide to work through with the choir. Nobody was convinced, and people just stopped coming. At some point somebody stomped out of a rehearsal when I was trying to explain a particular musical point, saying "You are totally focused on exactly the wrong little details and have totally lost the Spirit," and never spoke to me again (but she definitely spoke to the priest). (This was somebody who had previously suggested in all seriousness that, for our parish, music on the level of "Row, row, row your boat" was what was necessary just to "get people participating".) Even the small handful of people who saw things my way and were competent (or tried to be) and available (or tried to be) still balked at the point of me trying to get them to learn Byzantine notation (and eventually all of those people had to step away anyway, either because they moved or there were other life circumstances like childbirth, such as in the case of my wife).

The congregation on the whole seemed to like the improvements I was making; the trouble was that the handful of people with sour grapes also tended to be people whom the rest of the congregation looked to in order to see how they should behave. They saw that this small group of people wasn't cooperating with me or supporting me, so why should they behave any differently? They may not have actively worked against me, but they didn't speak up either.

The priest also appreciated having somebody in my position who cared enough to do it as well as possible and continually strive to improve, but he also felt that I was ultimately fighting a losing battle that he wasn't willing to join in himself. He was unwilling to help me enforce a rehearsal or attendance policy for the choir to begin with, he did not feel it was in his best interests to intervene when people picked public fights with me, and in the last year I was there, he rolled back some of my changes and told me not to make any more. He was very up front about saying that, if I could accomplish what I was trying to do without his help, fine, but I was on my own, and he was going to hamstring me where he felt it was appropriate and necessary. He put the kibosh on using Papa E's kekragaria settings at Vespers because he didn't like the translation used (when he started this conversation with me he said, "Excited about the Yoda translation I am not"). Pascha as it was sung there was, plain and simple, sacrosanct and not up for discussion (the last vestiges of the semi-Slavic hodgepodge I had inherited; in particular, the Balakirev setting of "The angel cried" seems to be treated as the national anthem of Orthodox Christianity in the Midwest by everybody but the Greeks, for whom it seems to be "Τῇ ὑπερμάχῳ"). He was unwilling to support the sponsorship of a scholarship at All Saints for IU students interested in Byzantine music, saying that he felt it would involve a parish where music was already a highly contentious issue in the setting of a precedent that he felt was inappropriate (with part of the subtext being that the parish community on the whole wanted nothing to do with the university, despite being the only Orthodox church for at least an hour in a town housing a university with a humongous international population). Holy Friday and Holy Saturday 2012 involved a particularly unpleasant couple of people hurling abuse at me in the church building, and his only reaction was to say, "You know, it seems like this isn't going to stop happening. You've got a kid on the way; if you need to step down, nobody's going to blame you."

The building, as I said, was a huge stumbling block; we put in a sound system that helped distribute the sound better but didn't help anybody hear themselves any better, and didn't really seem to sound right to the people in the congregation. One special morning involved somebody coming up to me and saying, "You know, hearing the choir through the speakers is really distracting. Can you just turn them off?" I explained that the building was not built for any kind of acoustic support, that I'm effectively having to yell from the beginning of Orthros to the end of Liturgy and I'm still not heard past the first row, so the sound system helps save the choir's voices while still helping us be heard. This woman looked very puzzled and said, "Why do you need to be heard better? We're not listening to you anyway." I was on the building committee from 2005-2012, and there was active resistance to moving forward with any kind of improvements (curiously, generally from the same people who refused to cooperate with the chant program). We talked to three different architects, and each time the conversations ended badly because this small group of people did everything they could to sabotage those conversations. Pointing out to them that we were in a building that neither was adequate space for our community nor an adequate temple for liturgizing fell on deaf ears; as to the former, the counterargument was, "Eventually the people we don't have space for will leave", and the response to the latter was, "We're here for the participation, not the beauty." The priest, while he was very much in favor of building, was not willing to take a leadership role in advocating that position, feeling that it was his job to manage the consensus of the community, not dictate terms. The acoustic situation at the very least took its toll on me vocally; besides being deader than dead from a standpoint of resonance, such help as I did have in the choir generally could not read music and often had trouble hearing or matching pitch; this meant that, for all practical purposes, the only thing I could do to give them anything to follow was to sing everything as loudly as I could (with the reality being that this wouldn't really be heard more than 3-4 feet away anyway), but also ignore everything I heard to maintain my own pitch center (otherwise we were going to go very flat very quickly). It was exhausting physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally to have to do this for 3 hours straight on Sunday, week in, week out, barely being able to talk by the end of Sunday morning most of the time, but I did it. It was the equivalent of having to sing Tristan or Siegfried once a week, and I don't say that lightly.

Eventually, by last fall, I had had enough. After my son's baptism, I had a very frank conversation with the priest where I asked him, "Will any of this ever get any better?" He said, no, I'm sorry, I don't think so. I wish that weren't the case, but the situation here just isn't set up for what you do to be received the way it should be.

So, that was that, and as of January of this year we started commuting to Indianapolis.

Now, be all of that as it may, I offer the following comparison. When I arrived at All Saints, we used classical compositions at the following points in the services:

Vespers:
-

Orthros:
-

Divine Liturgy:
-

When I left, we used classical compositions at the following points:

Vespers:
- Litany responses
- "Blessed is the man" (when we would do that, which was rare)
- Menaion prosomoia for kekragaria and aposticha
- Non-resurrectional Doxastika and Theotokia
- Prokeimena
- Litia and Artoklasia (when we would do that, which was rare)
- Non-resurrectional apolytikia

Orthros:
- Non-resurrectional apolytikia
- Kathismata (using Papa E.'s drafts posted here)
- Polyeleos (when we would do that, which was rare)
- Exaposteilaria
- Menaion prosomoia for ainoi
- Non-resurrectional Doxastika and Theotokia
- Great Doxology

Divine Liturgy:
- Litany of Peace
- Festal antiphon refrains
- Non-resurrectional apolytikia
- Kontakion
- Antitrisagia and Trisagion for hierarchical visits
- Megalynaria
- Festal koinonika
- "We have seen the true light..."
- "Let our mouths be filled..."
- "Blessed be the name of the Lord..."

Now, at Holy Apostles, it's just me, and all I do are classical compositions from Byzantine scores, in both Greek and English.

I leave the question of the characterization of this situation -- that is, whether it is accurate to call this "caving in" and "dumbing down" -- to everybody else's judgment; perhaps it is, in which case all I can do is try to smile ruefully, shrug my shoulders and say, well, I did everything I possibly could have done with what I had at no small personal expenditure, discomfort, and inconvenience, and maybe the harsh reality is that sometimes the perfect truly must be the enemy of the good.

In any event, I do apologize that somehow the conversation has come to be so focused on me and a defense of how I've handled various situations.

Richard
 
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#48
I'll also note very quickly that, when we left All Saints, these circumstances seemed to merit a letter to my former diocesan bishop, if for no other reason than I expected him to get a side of the story at his next visit that would not be terribly sympathetic to me. So, I sent him an eight page letter outlining the events that led up to our departure; of course, I never heard back.

I also mentioned that the priest had rolled back some things; if he had not rolled them back, then when I left the Divine Liturgy would have looked something like this for classical compositions:

Divine Liturgy:
- Litany of Peace
- Festal antiphon refrains
- Non-resurrectional apolytikia
- Kontakion
- Antitrisagia and Trisagion for hierarchical visits
- Alleluiarion
- Cherubikon
- Megalynaria
- Anaphora
- Festal koinonika
- "We have seen the true light..."
- "Let our mouths be filled..."
- "Blessed be the name of the Lord..."
 

Nikolaos Giannoukakis

Παλαιό Μέλος
#49
1) The priest in the parish where you experienced the pushback has failed in his ministry as a leader and as the voice and vehicle of Christ.

2) The hierarch has failed as a leader and as an upholder of the Orthotomia. I wonder what treatment he could receive if a Patriarchal Synodical Committee were to ever be apprised of your experience.

3) I speculate that Mammon reigns supreme in that parish to permit (1) and to possibly influence (2).

Sad.

NG
 
#50
K. Giannoukaki --

1) Extending maximum charity, the priest's own situation was complicated. Complex family situation, complex compensation situation, complex background regarding his entry into the priesthood. But yes, ultimately, the buck has to stop with him. I will always consider him a friend, but the reality will always be that he threw me under the bus. I'll note that we were at that parish for 9 years; I had been at 99% of any given year's services for that time, including baptisms, weddings, and funerals; besides the musical responsibilities, we ran OCF for a couple of years, my wife ran Myrrh Bearers (the Antiochian equivalent of the Philoptochos), we both were on parish council at various points, I was on the building committee, we had just baptized our firstborn there, etc. Our last Sunday there? Not even a flower. No communal goodbye whatsoever. "Today's the last Sunday the Barretts are with us; don't forget that tomorrow we have the Royal Hours for Nativity..." And that was all. He very awkwardly stopped by a week later with an All Saints icon, the back of which clearly had been signed just by whomever he could grab in the hallway before he left, but it was far too little far too late.

2) The current Antiochian diocesan bishop of Toledo is somebody whom I have never met. His predecessor was somebody I got along with well and who was generally complimentary of my efforts, but he also expressed discomfort with what I was doing. The new Patriarch of Antioch cares very much about Byzantine music, I am given to understand, having published a textbook on it himself in Arabic some 20 years ago, but beyond that, Metropolitan Philip tends to get his way, and the situation that allowed for what happened at my old parish is largely of his making, in many respects.

3) Money is at the very least a significant anxiety in the parish. Not because nobody has any, but because they prefer it to be in their pockets lest anybody find out that they have some. I'll say that I have no idea what is standard for chanters to be paid, but my stipend for at least 4 services per week (Wednesday Vespers, Saturday Vespers, Sunday Orthros/Liturgy) plus rehearsal Thursday plus sacraments plus festal services including Holy Week was significantly less than what a section leader at any given local Protestant church would have been paid for just showing up on Sunday and singing the "four-hymn sandwich". In January of 2012, after 4 years of nobody saying anything about my stipend whatsoever, I got a $25/month "good faith" increase; they specifically declined to do anything additional for Nativity and Holy Week the way they do for the priest and the deacon. For sacraments, the priest specifically declined to suggest to people that a gift to the chanter would be appropriate. To be fair, he declined such gifts himself, but at the same time, he was getting a full-time salary. I wasn't even quite getting gas money. Not, to be explicit about this, that I was doing it for the money, but it was part and parcel of how my efforts were overall not valued or supported.

But yes, sad.

Richard
 

romanos4

Παλαιό Μέλος
#51
I maintain this: Anastassiou, Roubanis and Vryonidis (who were all CHANTERS in their own rite, and not Juilliard graduates) composed their music based on the music of Sakellaridis and kept it simple. Where they could "harmonize", they harmonized. First Tone, for example, for the most part was NOT harmonized. There was a melody and there was an ison. (Oh, perhaps at the end they threw in a switch to major where they could add a 1-3-5 chord and make a "grand finale", but that was about it.)

After these three composers, it was all downhill from there. The latter so-called "neo-byzantine" composers (Desby, Zes, et al.) added weird chord structures, rhythmical point/counterpoint movements and rondo forms that make their compositions anything BUT Orthodox. These have absolutely NO PLACE in Orthodox worship. Oh, they'd be fine for a concert, but NOT within the official services (Liturgy, etc.) of the Church.

I think that the matter requires EDUCATION and SUPPORT. By "education" I mean educating the faithful; writing articles in our church bulletins on Byzantine chant; conducting lectures or other presentations for our congregations; and teaching the young people about our hymnology. By "support", I mean that the clergy (priests AND hierarchy) need to stand behind this tradition and support it.

The National Forum has no business in Byzantine Music because, for the most part, it knows nothing ABOUT Byzantine Music. They claim they have "resources" for the chanters, but if you wrote to them and asked them to provide a copy of Petros' Eirmologion, they'll look at you like you have two heads. This is why anything related to Byzantine Music should be REMOVED from under the "supervision" of the National Forum. They can promote their western music all they want, but when it comes to Byzantine chant, they need to step back.

Apostolos
I think this is consistent with the points I've also made in posts and couldn't agree more with this assessment.

As we talk through these issues, it's clear that it's precisely an issue of education that we're confronted with. In a lengthy e-mail I wrote to my proistamenos upon the resignation of our choir director, I didn't talk so much about the need/desire to wholesale replace the Cardiasmenos-led choir's repertoire with Byzantine chant overnight - but more so that we have an opportunity as a parish to really forge something special and important with our music ministry.

There are some who think we can hire a new choir director who's not Orthodox, or doesn't understand our services. That somehow this is okay and should be permitted - let alone continued use of the organ and the other aforementioned compositions of Desby, Zes and others who were USC educated, influenced heavily by the Hollywood music scene and had film score composers as professors (cf. Ingolf Dahl).

I offered the following as potential goals to be considered as part of the musical ministry at our parish:

1) A program whose overall goal is to create a prayerful environment that allows for the proper setting of the Divine Liturgy and other services in accordance with the traditions of our Orthodox Faith

2) Laying of the groundwork for implementing programs that recognize the ongoing need to educate both youth and adults in these traditions both for spiritual enrichment and to ensure continuity from one generation to the next. This can be done in the form of regular workshops, symposia, presentations etc.

3) Ongoing dialogue between clergy and the leadership within the musical program so as to ensure proper and faithful execution of the services and ensure musical selections receive clergy approval.

4) Development of an understanding of the Typikon/Hmerologion and other source materials among those wishing to participate in the singing/chanting of said services - so as to educate not just about musical performance but an understanding of why we chant what we chant and how the services are assembled.

5) More integration/collaboration between choir/chant and less of a dichotomy and perceived gulf between the two. The new choir director, whomever he or she shall be, will be willing to meet with and interact with all who are a part of the musical program.

The true opposition to the above comes from mainly our "interim choir director" and his wife who are outspoken OCL supporters that can often be heard at coffee hour talking about the "American Orthodox Church".

This interim director though very committed is among those who would say Byzantine Chant is archaic and not pleasant to Western Ears and that Zes's "Soma Christou" is the best music there is.

Other people seem ambivalent and would be willing to be a part of a choir that sings more traditional, a cappella music.

I think the real opportunity here is to expose the parish to on going education get all people, young and old, excited about this, show them that it does matter, and it also is important for the future of our parish. Who will be leading the liturgy when the choir members retire/move on and there are very few to no people left chanting in 15 years?

R.
 
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Nikolaos Giannoukakis

Παλαιό Μέλος
#52
Dear Romanos4,

I initially did not want to further the digression, but temptation was too powerful and I apologise at the outset-

You note:
The true opposition to the above comes from mainly our "interim choir director" and his wife who are outspoken OCL supporters that can often be heard at coffee hour talking about the "American Orthodox Church".

How many OCL and (formerly GOAL) members and supporters exist in the higher echelons, or are compositional "darlings" of the National Forum of Greek Orthodox Church Musicians?

It's a rhetorical question and the answer is quite sobering....

Former Archbishop Spyridon's head was the prize and that crosspolination will not stop until they remove every vestige of Orthodoxy for their fetish of an "American Patriarchate", whatever that means.

NG
 

domesticus

Lupus non curat numerum ovium
#53
Basil: As I said in e-mail, God forgives; forgive me, brother. Let's put this behind us.
....

In any event, I do apologize that somehow the conversation has come to be so focused on me and a defense of how I've handled various situations.

Richard
K. Giannoukaki --

...
Richard
Honestly, terrible conditions for a chanter. You have been very very patient.

Very very sad situation.
 

saltypsalti

Παλαιό Μέλος
#54
Dear Romanos4,

I initially did not want to further the digression, but temptation was too powerful and I apologise at the outset-

You note:
The true opposition to the above comes from mainly our "interim choir director" and his wife who are outspoken OCL supporters that can often be heard at coffee hour talking about the "American Orthodox Church".

How many OCL and (formerly GOAL) members and supporters exist in the higher echelons, or are compositional "darlings" of the National Forum of Greek Orthodox Church Musicians?

It's a rhetorical question and the answer is quite sobering....

Former Archbishop Spyridon's head was the prize and that crosspolination will not stop until they remove every vestige of Orthodoxy for their fetish of an "American Patriarchate", whatever that means.

NG
He who pays the piper apparently calls the tunes. Sadly.

JPP
 
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